“The study of English literature, especially lyric poetry, is the best preparation for the law. […] That training helped me later, when trying to decipher law statutes.”
Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens
The Pre-Law Major is a rare thing on college campuses, in part because law schools don’t want them. They want their applicants to have academic majors, and of those majors, English has long been one of the best and most popular for those applying to law school. Brockport English majors have been admitted to Georgetown Law, University of Virginia School of Law, Florida State University College of Law, NYU Law, University at Buffalo School of Law, and Albany Law School, among others.
According to the College of Law at Michigan State University,
Preparation for legal education should include substantial experience at close reading and critical analysis of complex textual material, for much of what you will do as a law student and lawyer involves careful reading and comprehension of judicial opinions, statues, documents, and other written materials. […] Law school should not be the first time that you are rigorously engaged in the enterprise of carefully reading and understanding, and critically analyzing, complex written material of substantial length.
Courses in English not only immerse you in great stories and great poetry; they also are the places in which students develop the capacity to read and analyze texts of significant complexity and sophistication, many of which deal directly with matters of law. These very skills are tested on the LSAT.
English courses are also the only places on campus in which you will learn the kind of grammatical analysis that will make learning legal writing easier. Some English courses (such as History of English) in fact include units on legal writing and legal language; others deal directly with the history of criminal law and problems of law and constitutional history. The skills doing library research you’ll acquire as an English major are also indispensable for those pursuing a law degree, and will give you credentials that may be lacking in your competitors for law school placement and employment in the legal field.
Interested in applying to law school after graduation? Be sure you become acquainted with Brockport’s Pre-Law Program; though it’s not an academic major, it keeps students informed about law-related events on campus and offers advisement to those applying to law school.
The Department of English also offers more personalized help to English majors intending to apply to law school. Our in-house pre-law advisor, Professor Stefan Jurasinski, will be happy to assist you with choosing appropriate courses in the major, deciding where to apply for law school, and writing parts of the application such as your personal statement. In addition, all of our faculty have had success helping their students be admitted to law school and will be eager to help you.